“You are just SO pretty!”
My daughter hears some variation on this statement at least ten times a day. And she’s two years old. I get it; I gave birth to a knockout. I’ve seen her dimples, her coy smile, and her dark eyes. She’s so skinny you could use her to skewer hors d’ouevres. We think that these are innocent statements about the charm of a child, but are they? Stick around the playground long enough: I promise, the homely and unruly children are not the beneficiaries of such compliments.
Take another look at Zoe. People really are referring to her physical appearance when they tell her she is beautiful.
What is the outcome of hearing such a message from the time you are two years old?
- You understand the exaggerated importance of appearance and spend the rest of your life primping to get as many of these compliments as you can, and
- You recognize that you really are attractive and assume that this makes you a more worthwhile person. You think you are somehow better than ugly people.
I don’t want Zoe absorbing these messages because they’re not true. My whole life I heard, “Oh, you’re so smart,” and it took me nineteen years to figure out that wasn’t worth shit. Smart? Who cares about smart when you’re miserable enough to die?
Looks have nothing to do with character and every human being is worthwhile merely by existing. We are children of God and that is enough.
Obviously I can’t control what other people choose to tell my daughter, but I can choose how I explain these comments to her. Right now she’s too young to understand, but give it another year. She’s smart.
Zoe, you are pretty. You are smart. You don’t get credit for these things. If anything, Dad and I get that credit because, well, we made you after all. People will treat you differently for these things because they can’t tell up from down. It does not make you special. It does not make you better than the ugliest kid in your class. Mom and Dad love you because you are a gift from God and you can never do anything to earn that.